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Call to shut down Fullabrook Wind Farm after tests show 'above limits' noise levels

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 23, 2012

  • Nick Williams at his home near Fullabrook wind farm in North Devon. He says he has been prescribed anti-depressants

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Britain's biggest onshore wind farm, in North Devon, could be operating well above permitted noise levels in every location where readings were taken, a new report claims.

Residents have called on North Devon District Council to shut down the facility at Fullabrook after a report commissioned by the authority said all 22 turbines could be exceeding set limits.

The plant's operator has released data from a monitoring exercise which showed five of the 12 measured locations were noisier than Government maximums.

But in a study to verify the data, acoustic specialists say the firm has not factored in an extra audible "hum" which would push all the readings above the maximum.

Bob Barfoot, North Devon chairman of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said the results were not unexpected.

"It was quite obvious to everybody that they would exceed the limits," he added. "These Vestas machines are too big and too noisy to be used on shore and this has been proved by Fullabrook."

Neighbours have repeatedly argued that the permitted maximum of 40 decibels (db) or 5db above background noise is still much too high.

Nick Williams, who has been prescribed anti-depressants to help him cope with the effects of the plant, lives 450m away and can see seven turbines from his window.

The 53-year-old told the Western Morning News the sound was like a "tumble drier" and often at its worst on clear winter days.

"They have woken me up two nights in a row – it is not acceptable," he added.

"I think the council should turn them off – if you built a house and broke the rules they would come down on you like a ton of bricks."

The testing was carried out earlier this year by ESB International, in order to satisfy the council that it is not breaching planning regulations.

Two reports into noise assessments around Fullabrook have been released this week.

A compliance assessment report by ESB showed that broadband noise levels – the "swooshing" of the blades – recorded at four locations were above the limits set out within the planning consent, by up to 1.9db in certain wind conditions. The report says the operator intends to work with the manufacturer of the turbines to ensure they return to acceptable levels.

Meanwhile, North Devon council has also released an independent report, by Robert Davis Associates, to verify ESB's assessment study.

Both reports said that "tonal noise" was measured, at Binalong, Crackaway, Beara and Patsford. The verification report said under planning conditions this attracts a "graduated penalty of up to 5dB". "The analysis presented to date does not include any correction to measured noise levels to take account of audible tones," it added. "Since noise levels at all 12 survey locations are within 5dB of the noise limits at some wind speeds the addition of a penalty for tonal noise could result in noise at all locations being shown to exceed the limits."

North Devon council is "seeking further clarification" on the tonal noise issue and said ESB has commissioned further work to quantify the "degree by which tonal noise is a feature".

ESB said engineers from Vestas were investigating solutions to the problem.

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  • Vindpust  |  November 25 2012, 12:09PM

    If it is failing to meet noise conditions it should be shut down immediately until a mitigation scheme is agreed. Hitting these companies in their pockets seems to be the only way to get results. Other local authorities have taken this sort of action: 'Exasperated planners shut wind farm down' Northern Times, 9 June, 2011. 'The local authority has forced Scottish and Southern Electricity to shut down a Sutherland wind farm after the company breached planning controls by failing to deal with excessive noise from the development. 'People living close to the Achany wind farm near Rosehall are claiming their lives are being made a misery by the constant noise, and are angry that their complaints are being ignored. 'In an unprecedented move, Highland Council issued a temporary stop notice on the 23-turbine wind farm at 3pm on Monday...'

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  • Healthconcern  |  November 23 2012, 5:55PM

    The facts at Fullabrook are clear. The residents are suffering a Common Law nuisance (See Godfrey v Conway Council 2001) They can not enjoy their land. At least one person, Nick Williams, is suffering ill health there may be others frightened to come forward. The North Devon Council is in possession of masses of world wide scientific research showing the link between ill health and wind turbines. The Environmental Protection Act says a local authority SHALL serve an abatement notice if the emissions from the site are 1) a Statutory Nuisance or b) there is a likelihood that they are prejudicial to health. Why is the Council refusing to comply with this legislation? The people at Fullabrook have the option of suing the landowners and energy companies for nuisance damages and the devaluation of their properties. I believe they also have the option of suing the negligent Council Officials for punitive damages. The whole wind energy thing is a corrupt disgrace, people are denied there basic rights for political dogma and, of course greed by landowners and energy companies.

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  • P1982B  |  November 23 2012, 5:32PM

    Brizz_Tony, I don't entirely disagree with you. If the noise is above the levels set out in planning conditions then yes something needs be done, and it appears from the article that it is. Should the turbines be shut down, yes when the wind reaches a speed that increases the noise above the agreed threshold they should. This is easily done. What I am pointing out however is that the largest local paper in the Westcountry is making statements which aren't even close to being accurate. How are people supposed to develop their own views of a subject if the media are miss-reporting in this way?

  • Brizz_Tony  |  November 23 2012, 4:38PM

    P1982B, OK, it's not the biggest onshore wind farm. The noise it is making is above the maximum limits set in the planning agreement, and it should be closed down until work is done to reduce the noise. The reason is that people's health is being affected by this breach of planning regulations. Someone should sue the operator, landowner, and possibly even the council if they don't enforce the rules.

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  • 2ladybugs  |  November 23 2012, 2:12PM

    So while "seeking further clarification" and "investigating solutions to the problem" these noisy monstrosities are allowed to continue spinning (or probably not, owing to the excessive wind speeds we are currently experiencing).

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  • P1982B  |  November 23 2012, 11:59AM

    Dear Western Morning News, Not for the first time you have refered to Fullabrook as "Britain's biggest onshore wind farm". This is simply not true and shows a lack of thought, research, and good journalistic skills. Have you heard of research? Whitelee Find Farm consists of 140 turbines, an installed capacity of 322MW. Compared with Fullabrooks 22 turbines and 66MW capacity. There are more sites inbetween as well. You may well be anti-wind farms but you should still report the facts. The fact is that Fullabrook, noisey or not, is a long long way from being the largest wind farm in Britain. I hope you will report more acurately in the future.

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